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Embodied Meanings of Early Childbearing Among American Indian Women: A Turning Point


  • Janelle Palacios CNM, PhD,

  • Catherine Chesla DNSc, RN,

  • Holly Kennedy CNM, PhD,

  • June Strickland PhD, RN

Janelle Palacios, CNM, PhD, Center for Vulnerable Populations/Health Disparities, University of California-Los Angeles School of Nursing, Room 2-250, Factor Building, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1702. E-mail:


Introduction: American Indian women often have poor perinatal outcomes and are at risk for early childbearing. The purpose of this qualitative study was to understand the experience and meaning of early childbearing among American Indian women.

Methods: Employing interpretive phenomenology and a semistructured interview guide, we interviewed 30 adult American Indian women residing in a northwestern American Indian reservation about their experiences and meaning of early childbearing.

Results: Three overarching themes were tied to their eventual positive evaluation of the experience: 1) mourning a lost childhood, 2) seeking fulfillment, and 3) embodying responsibility.

Discussion: Women indicated that despite their tumultuous childhoods, early childbearing presented an opportunity to effect positive change in their lives. Women's health care providers are positioned to help women change their lives, thereby, improving health outcomes.